Saturday, January 17, 2015

Post-neo-Malthusianism -- a global demographic transition?

OK, all you Malthus enthusiasts out there, after a way-too-long hiatus, here are some of my latest graphs and interpretations:

First, let's look at global population levels since C.E. 0. The data are mostly, of course, from Angus Maddison (R.I.P.), with UN data spliced after 2008.

You can see a liftoff in the late middle ages, some acceleration in the early modern era, and an exponential explosion starting about the industrial revolution era and continuing until now. As I recently argue, this level growth is sufficient to claim that the correlated growth in aggregate demand is sufficient to explain many things, in particular the great growth in (and supply to) demand for capital to meet the aggregate consumer demand, all correlated with the English and later industrial revolutions.

Good. Now, lets look at the really interesting, at least to me, information somewhat buried in this first graph. The next graph is in log differences of the population levels, so showing the change in population growth rates.
Here we see, with some interesting variations that I will not comment on here, that the second derivative of population levels was mostly positive up until about 1960 (I have windowed graphs that allow this granularity). So growth rates were ever-increasing to rates significantly above two percent annually.

Since then, we see a (strong) reversal in growth rates, back to about one percent annually. This has large implications for important things economic going forward. First, should this continue, the first derivative will go  negative (population will peak then decrease - in other work, I show this could happen around 2085 2045). Second, under my nascent and evolving theory of Industrial Capitalism, the correlated fall in aggregate demand will diminish the demand for and supply of global productive capital. This implies a drop in accumulated capital, eventually including financial capital if asset values fall. There are other important implications, but these are biggies.

Should you be one among us desiring yet another crisis of capitalism, this one is a doozy since we will be pushing the demise-of-capitalism water downhill, instead of uphill as has been the case since Marx.

This is probably enough for now.


Thomas post-neo Malthus Bannister

p.s. I am seriously thinking of legally changing my name to the above.


  1. Robert. Malthus went by his middle name. Not sure decreasing population is good. Not even for the environment. Lower population historically has meant the collapse of civilization and technological knowledge (productivity is pro-cyclical and pro-structural). At any rate, welcome back to NK.

    1. Correct. There will be winning things and losing things. But my points are this is real, has major implications, and one biggie is possible decline of capitalism.

      Also, this imminent pop decline is caused (probably historically uniquely) by a prosperity-driven demographic transition, and we have no real history so must theorize.